The three most important parts of a book are: a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

THE SKIN OF WATER by G. S. Johnston

The Skin of Water by G.S.  JohnstonAmazon Digital Services
Pages:  255
Release Date:  January 23, 2012

About the Book:  Passions flare and alliances shift in this breathtaking story of survival set during the final days of World War II in Hungary.

Young Zeno dreams of moving to Budapest and becoming a great filmmaker in the Hungarian film studios. But one evening he follows Catherine Steiner, a guest at the exclusive lakeside resort where he works as a bellboy, into the forest. Unknowingly he dives into her life, changing his forever.

Her husband is a wealthy industrialist with the power to create – or crush – Zeno. Despite Catherine’s protests, Zeno moves to Budapest and takes a servant’s job in the Steiner house, shining her husband’s shoes while hearing the family’s secrets.

All Zeno and Catherine have are precious hours in a secret apartment, tucked above the uneasy streets of a city at war, their affair a flimsy wall against a future no one can see or predict. Until it arrives.

Wanda's Review:  I absolutely loved this book! This is a story rich in history, drama, and romance that ropes you in from the get-go and keeps you hanging on throughout. 

War was raging across Europe, but Hungary had remained immune. German troops had marched through the streets and roads of Hungary, but no bombs had fallen and Budapest had remained untouched. 

It was the summer of 1943, in Hungary, that 17 year old Zeno Czibula first saw Catherine Steiner. He did what he always did - he began filming this beautiful, stunning woman whom he had followed into the deep forest and then into the lake. He approaches her and talks to her briefly, but long enough to realize she was older than he expected, probably in her mid 30s. She was beautiful beyond any face he'd ever seen and spoke with a soft French accent. Zeno was captivated by Catherine early on and could not get her out of his thoughts. He knew immediately that he was out of her league. He was just a bellboy at the Hotel Hungary. It was his day off and he was absolutely forbidden in this part 0f the forest, reserved for guests only. Zeno and Catherine are linked together by two secrets. Zeno witnessed Catherine's reckless actions at the lake and Catherine witnessed Zeno's trespassing in the forest. 

Catherine was born in France, but has lived in Hungary for twenty five years, trapped in a loveless marriage. She rarely sees her husband, Sandor. Her life is one big facade - hidden by a web of lies and deceit. She very often stays at a secret apartment where she and Zeno begin an affair. 

Sandor Steiner, a Hungarian businessman, is not exactly the son the Steiner family was proud of. He is incredibly lazy and is known as being a womanizer, with a long list of women. One day Sandor calls Zeno to his suite. He was losing his personal valet and offers the job to Zeno. It would mean moving to Budapest, living in the same house as Catherine. While he worked for Sandor, with an unbelievable generous wage, he'd be able to explore the possibility of work in the film studios, a longtime dream of Zeno. 

And then it happened - the Germans, vicious fanatics, were invading Budapest and taking control. The madness of the world had come upon Hungary. And the story unfolds ---

Other characters - 
Peter Kresz is married to Erzsebet, Sandor's sister. He has worked in the Steiner family's business for years, elevating himself to high management. He worked with a zest that Sandor lacked and the staff maintained that he was the "better son" despite the lack of a blood line. 
Tibi is 25 years old, with a film star's looks, who lived in Budapest, but each summer came down to the lake to work. Tibi was a rather ruthless character. 
Gertrud was an interesting character who worked for Catherine and was in love with Zeno. It was difficult to know if she could be trusted. 

The Skin of Water is a book to be savored and a great read for historical fiction fans with a storyline full of interesting revelations. It has a well constructed plot, compelling characters, and a satisfying conclusion. Don't miss this one. I highly recommend with 4.5 stars. 
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The Author - G. S. Johnston
Image of G. S. JohnstonWebsite - www.gsjohnston.com

G.S. Johnston is an author of two historical novels, The Skin of Water and Consumption, noted for their complex characters and well-researched settings.
In one form or another, Johnston has always written, at first composing music and lyrics. After completing a degree in pharmacy, a year in Italy re-ignited his passion for writing and he completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. Feeling the need for a broader canvas, he started writing short stories and novels.
Originally from Hobart, Tasmania, Johnston currently lives in Sydney, Australia with two cats - home-loving Reba and the wayward Rose - and Miss Mia, a black and white cuddle dog.
He would be impressed with humanity if someone could succeed in putting an extra hour in every day.